HSBC hit by protests at 20 branches over Israeli arms trade links
Protests forced HSBC branches in London and Brighton to close today and protests were held at a total of 20 branches over the bank’s links with arms companies that supply weapons used by Israel to oppress Palestinians.
The bank’s Brighton branch was closed for several hours as activists held a ‘die-in’ occupation and stuck up posters about HSBC’s investments in arms companies with links to Israel in the bank’s windows.
Protests were also held at HSBC branches in Manchester, Birmingham, Tower Hamlets, Oxford, Liverpool, Durham and in dozen other towns and cities.
HSBC has become a target for the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement after research by campaigning charity War on Want, that will be published next week, revealed the bank’s extensive links with arms companies that supplies the weapons and equipment Israel uses to oppress Palestinians.
In the summer of 2014, Israel carried out its deadliest ever massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. More than 2,300 people were killed, including 550 children. The UN and human rights organisations have documented how Israel has carried out war crimes during its attacks on Palestinians.
HSBC owns shares in military and technology companies that sell weapons and equipment to Israel worth £831m. The bank holds £180m of shares in BAE Systems, a key company involved in manufacturing the F-16 fighter jets used by Israel to attack Palestinians in Gaza. HSBC also holds £102m of shares in Boeing, who have provided Hellfire missiles, F-15 Eagle fighter jets, MK84 2000-lb bombs and Apache helicopters used in Israel’s devastating attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Since January 2012, HSBC has been involved in syndicates with other banks that have provided loans to arms companies that supply weapons to Israel worth at least £19.3bn. HSBC has been involved in providing loans to to Caterpillar, whose specially modified bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes, and to United Technologies, who produce UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters used by the Israeli military in its assaults on Palestinian civilians.
HSBC has a ‘Defence Equipment Sector Policy’ which appears to commit the bank to not providing financial support to the arms trade.
Riya Hassan, a campaigner with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads the BDS movement, said:
“By investing in and providing loans to the arms companies that help Israel to oppress Palestinians, HSBC is lending its support to Israel’s violations of international law.”
“HSBC is profiting from the armed violence and repression that lies at the heart of Israel’s system of oppression over the Palestinian people.”
“HSBC appears to be acting in violation of the UN rules on business and human rights and its own stated commitment to not provide support to the arms industry.”
More information about HSBC’s investment in and loans to the arms industry will be made available in a report due to be published next week. The report draws on databases used in the financial services industry to reveal how HSBC and other high street banks help to finance the arms trade with Israel.
The actions targeting HSBC come on the third anniversary of Israel’s brutal 2014 attack on the Gaza Strip, as part of a UK wide Stop Arming Israel Week of Action. Campaigners are calling for an end to the profitable military relationship between the UK and Israel.
In June 2017, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published guidance to the banking sector clarifying that banks and financial institutions have responsibilities to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts” and “to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships”
This is not the first time HSBC has been held to account for violating its own policies. Earlier this year, a report by the environmental campaigning group, Greenpeace, found that HSBC provides services to companies involved in the palm oil industry, despite its own policies on forestry and agricultural commodities.
War on Want’s senior militarism and security campaigner, Ryvka Barnard, said:
‘HSBC holds shares in, and arranges loans to, a number of companies that sell weapons and military technology to Israel, used in the abuse of Palestinians’ human rights, including war crimes.
‘HSBC presents itself as an ‘ethical’ bank because of its Defence Equipment Sector policy, but our research has shown that the policy is no more than words on paper. If HSBC is serious about a commitment to human rights, its first step must be to immediately end its business relationship with companies that sell weapons to Israel.’
Arms companies around the world are profiting from Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. Along with the banks that invest in them, these companies are on our doorsteps. We can take action to stop them; join us for a week of action from 1st to 7th July 2017, on the third anniversary of Israel’s 2014 attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The full version of this article was published by The Independent on 6 Feburary 2017.
Rather than deepening the UK’s relationship with Israel’s human rights abusing government, it’s time Theresa May reminded herself of the UK’s obligations under international law, which if enforced, would block her Government from approving arms exports and other trade that lends material support to Israeli violations.
Campaigners calling for a two-way arms embargo on Israel will hold coordinated events at sites in the UK connected to Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company:
- Oldham, Saturday 17 December: Seasonal songs and stall against Britain’s arms trade with Israel
- Shenstone, Monday 19 December: UK stop arming Israel: From Arms to Renewables
- Crawley, Monday 19 December: Welfare not warfare: Drones off our doorstep
“Battle-proven…in over 40,000 successful combat missions.” This boast appears in a promotional video for the Hermes 900 series drones. It’s a frequently repeated phrase used by the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems to market its military products. Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest arms companies, showed this video at the Farnborough International arms fair in the midst of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip in 2014.
by Vyara Gylsen
I was arrested in September 2015 for criminal damage to a military vehicle by writing on it “arms tested on children” with washable ink. It happened during demonstrations against the DSEI expo, one of the world’s largest arms fairs. I must have really hurt the tank’s feelings judging from the way the police rugby tackled me. It is as though I would damage it beyond repair and make it inactive in battle using my dry-wipe marker.
The 19 were arrested for protesting at UAV Engines Ltd, in Shenstone, Staffordshire, on 6 July 2015, one year after Israel’s attacks on Gaza in 2014.
UAV Engines Ltd is wholly owned by Elbit Systems, an Israeli company manufacturing military drones used to attack Gaza.
In September, DSEI, one of the world’s biggest arms fairs, took place in London’s ExCeL centre. Israel’s three largest arms companies – Elbit, Israeli Aerospace Industries and Rafael – were present at DSEI 2015, and an Israeli national pavilion inside the fair hosted many smaller Israeli arms companies. In addition to Israeli arms companies, the country’s major arms suppliers were there: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and ThyssenKrupp among many others.
But DSEI was challenged with daily creative direct action, as activists held a week of action ahead of the fair to block equipment from entering the fair. Continue reading “Stop Arming Israel action against the DSEI arms fair”
Amnesty International’s new Black Friday report details evidence of horrendous war crimes committed by Israeli armed forces against Palestinian civilians during the summer 2014 assault on Gaza, and recommends that “all states should suspend the transfer to Israel of arms, munitions, weapons and military equipment”.